Working outside my comfort zone.

In the last few weeks, I have spent quite a lot of time outside my comfort zone. Why? Because my working life used to be, in the main, quite straightforward. I networked, I worked on strategy, I implemented new processes and systems. Occasionally, I would be outside my comfort zone because I was doing something new, but I like spending a bit of time outside my comfort zone, as long as there is foundation of ‘business as usual’.

But all that changed in March. I, along with most of the population had to:

  • come to terms with meeting people using Zoom and other similar platforms,
  • practice looking at the camera rather than looking at people so you end up looking slightly unfocussed,
  • learn how to deal with the gap between saying I wasleaving a meeting and then actually leaving a meeting having found the right button to click on.

So when that became easier I became a bit more adventurous. I took part in my first podcast[GC1] , I did my first virtual presentation and I chaired my own less formal meetings, rather than other people doing all the techy bits. I started to study some new social media platforms and realised how little of the language used I understood.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like that adrenalin surge you get when you are nervous. But the last few weeks it has felt like I couldn’t see my comfort zone even if I had binoculars! So, two weeks ago I attended my first virtual international conference and used my very rusty German. Last week I chaired my first formal business meeting and was in charge of the system. Scary! And to finish the week I recorded my ‘Business chat’ with a colleague which I then uploaded to my new YouTube channel…did I mention that I also set up a YouTube channel?

I’m sure that these new adventures will become normal so  I’m planning more adventures. I’m organising a virtual Christmas networking event for members and, if successful, I will be arranging some regular afternoon networking events, starting in the new year. I’m also looking at opening Groups outside of our current area. All are making me nervous…but that’s becoming business as usual!

Is networking “outside your comfort zone? Get my top 20 networking tips to download:www.ebn.uk.com


 [GC1]

Learning from other people

Last week was a busy one for my brain. I attended 2 training sessions and I had two meetings to discuss new products and services, which will involve using new systems. The bit of my brain that was left started to think about this aspect of networking: knowing people who know stuff.

When I became self-employed, nearly 25 years ago, I quickly realised that I had left behind the support system that comes with working in the corporate world: a secretary who sorted all my admin needs, an IT section so I didn’t have to bother with things that plug in and require passwords, a stationery cupboard that the fairies filled, and a whole team who made sure that I could concentrate on what I was good at—building relationships with customers and potential customers (so some things haven’t changed).

All the above included having projects, usually decided by my boss, that meant I would be given a brief that included a how-to sheet. (Is it just me who wants to call this a brief brief?)  That was it. Now I think of new products and services (woohoo!) and I must find people who know the stuff I will need to know to implement the whole thing. I then need to manage the implementation. This includes a level of understanding. However, since I know these people who know stuff, it doesn’t have to be a deep understanding since I can always ask my supplier for help.

I have suppliers who I have known for forever and I have suppliers I’ve known for months. All of them have the same qualities. They:

  • know their stuff,
  • can solve my problems (not all of them of course just the ones that relate to their specialism!),
  • can explain stuff I need to know and understand in language that I can understand and
  • are people I trust.

So last week I learnt:

  • about making websites effective and uploading videos to YouTube (thanks Mike Hennan),
  • some intricacies of social media marketing (thanks Lesley Morrissey),
  • additional information about how to get the best from Zoom (thank you David Bell).

Self-employment can be a lonely place but we are not alone. We are surrounded by people whose knowledge is different from ours and who are willing and able to help us build our businesses.

What did you learn in the last week? If you want get some information about networking, go to: www.ebn.uk.com and download my 20 top tips.

Happy networking.

My problem with business cards?

Do you remember back in the mists of time, pre-March 23rd to be precise? In those wonderful days we met people face to face, we could see all of each other’s faces, the nightmare of coordinating masks and outfits weren’t on the radar and women wore  lipstick when they went out of the house (Wait: OK the last two might just be me, I tried wearing lipstick under my mask and ended up looking like the Joker) Anyway, back to the story, in those halcyon days you met someone, chatted, thought there might be some points of contact and you exchanged cards. (Yes there were some hip-and-happening youngsters—or as I call them—geeks, who had apps on their phones but I’m still old school…and I paid a lot of money for all the business cards I have.)

On 23rd March, the world of business changed in many way.  (Read https://www.ebn.uk.com/blog/?p=145 to see how it affected me personally) but here I want to focus on business cards.

Before March 23rd, and given GDPR, I would get their card connect on Linkedin, send them an email, and ask if I could add them to my list from which they could, of course unsubscribe. (Interestingly, I never had anyone say that I couldn’t). We would then work at building a relationship, perhaps by arranging a 1-2-1. But that whole process started with a business card exchange.

The other thing with business cards was I ALWAYS had them with me when I went out of the house. Why? Because if you are not talking to yourself you are networking. Want proof that this approach works? When I had a catering company, I was once at the checkout of my local supermarket (I’d like to say Waitrose, but it was Tesco) and got talking to the next woman in the queue. She said she was very angry because her caterer had just rung her and cancelled her booking, something about a surprise holiday! I pulled out my business card, we met, and I got a very profitable job. I always took my business cards with me.

After 23rd March I can still connect with people on Linkedin but I don’t have the business card process nailed down, and since I rarely go out, I don’t even know where my business cards are.

As I try to evolve my working practices, I spent some time giving this some thought, and what did I find? The solutions to these business cards issues is simple: 1 I will be asking permission to add my new Linkedin connections to my list and I am digging out my business cards and putting them next to my vast array of various coloured masks.

How can you help? Make sure your contact details are correct and complete on your Linkedin profile. Please.

What are some of the small changes you are making?

Want some networking tips? Go to:  https://www.ebn.uk.com/ and download my top 20 networking tips. You’re welcome.

Have fun

Glenys

Every day is an interview day

Recently I was at a meeting, virtual of course, and I commented on how great one attendee looked. Actually, I said, “You look smart, are you going for a job interview?” He said, “Every day is an interview day” and everyone smiled. Later I was thinking about his comment.

I know that when I go to any meeting I am representing my company and, more importantly, people I meet must feel able to refer me to their contacts. So I dress as if I am going to be introduced to someone who invites me to address their board in London. I dress smartly, always, and this applies whether I am meeting people face to face or virtually, because… did I mention I am representing my company?

It is tempting to relax when attending a meeting. We’re at home, possibly not long from our beds, and we’ve not had any of that bothersome travel. Coffee from our kitchen, with a bit of  tidying done while we wait for the kettle to boil. But, did I mention that I am representing my company?

So I approach a virtual meeting the same way I do a face to face meeting, because I am being interviewed—interviewed by people who will be judging whether their reputation is going to be harmed by introducing me to their contacts. Therefore I dress  smartly, I comb my hair, I put on my makeup, I prepare myself and behave appropriately during the meeting because every day  is an interview day.

What do you think?

As always if you want 20 free networking hints and tips, go to ebn.uk.com and download away.

Have fun,

Glenys

It’s not who you know, it’s who they know

Recently I was talking to a new contact. We had met at a networking event, connected on LinkedIn and he suggested we have a 1-2-1. Lovely, that’s how you build business relationships.

When we started to talk he said that he hardly did any networking because his company was so big that businesspeople he met owned businesses that were too small to pass work to him. I was a bit surprised since he seemed to have misunderstood what networking is all about.

If you read my blog – What is networking all about? ( https://www.ebn.uk.com/blog/?p=169 ) I talk about the advice, information and support that you get from networking. One thing I didn’t mention was the business that happens when you network and this is the part that my new contact seemed not to understand. The amount of business you and I can do may be limited, unless you are a purveyor of fruit scones when I may be a very regular customer. If, however, you are a mortgage advisor I either need a mortgage or I don’t and, if I do, it could be a while before I need one again. However, I may know people who need a mortgage and these are the people you want to be introduced to. You know me and through me you potentially know my contacts.

So, what about my contacts. Well,

  • I am not a man, but I know men,
  • I am not young (Honestly, hard to believe isn’t it?) but I know young people,
  • I am not a tall person, but I know tall people,
  • I am not the owner of a large company, but I know people who own large companies, and
  • I am not a millionaire (yet) but I know a few millionaires.

So my new contact is missing this point.  If we build a strong relationship then you may meet my contacts and you don’t know who I know.

Have fun

Glenys

What is networking all about?

As we enter our seventh month of not being able to network face-to-face I have started to see many cases of ‘Zoom fatigue’. (Other systems are available and have the same challenge). Often the numbers of people attending have reduced and people have become more comfortable with the system. (Strangely, our Groups reduced and have now started to grow again as parents see their children back at school.)

So, since the government guidelines are not looking like we will be able to come face-to-face again any time soon, I thought it would be helpful to remind myself why I network. I hope this helps you too.

Networking is a huge part of my marketing strategy. It enables me to meet other businesspeople, build strong relationships and from this I gain: advice, information, support and, of course, work. The latter will almost always take a while to happen, so let’s explore the first three things:

Advice

No one has experienced the situation we have all faced this year, but what I realised is that many of the challenges some have faced are the challenges that come from owning a business: cashflow, getting work, completing work, getting paid etc.  In addition, there is a whole raft of never-before-experienced challenges:  furloughing staff, preparing for people to work from home, preparing for people to work in the office. However, both these sets of challenges are helped by people offering advice, usually from their own experiences. This happens whether face-to-face across a table or face-to-face across a screen. When networking you meet people you can trust who will offer advice. You then decide whether to take it.

Information

This is, of course, closely linked to advice. The difference is that information usually comes from people’s area of expertise.  For example, you may want to wade through the intricacies of furloughing staff and the HMRC, I do not. I get information from my accountant and sometimes, while networking, I get the latest, ‘hot off the press’ information from an accountant who is attending. (When I finish networking I usually find this information from my accountant in my inbox but that is by the by.)

Support

There are times for many businesspeople when things don’t go well or as planned, don’t get started, or seem never to end. Self-employment in its different disguises can be a lonely place and through networking we can gain contacts who will listen (occasionally) to our rants, our troubles, our whinges. They may offer advice and information but what they really will offer is their attention. Naturally we have to remember that this should not be every day!

These times have been for some, psychologically and practically, difficult times. Members tell me they have really appreciated the support they have received, now more than ever. Because we work using the Chatham House rule they feel able to be completely honest and this has always been helpful.

If you would like to see my blog on networking, here’s the link: https://www.ebn.uk.com/blog/?p=37

And if you would like my top 20 networking tips, go to: https://www.ebn.uk.com and claim your free download

Have fun.

The 3/3/3 rule

When talking to people about my system of networking I am often asked “How do you manage a room full of people” This can be daunting, even for the most confident or experienced networkers. My advice is: First gather your thoughts and your positive attitude before you walk in, just before you get out of the car is a good time and place, walk in with a smile, don’t overdo it or you’ll look scary, and have a plan. My plan is I follow my 3/3/3 rule:

Category 1. Talk to three people you know really well but don’t stay with them, which is always tempting. Long day, long week, stress at work; you could stay in your comfort zone. Don’t do it. If needs be arrange a 1-2-1 with them and then move on. You might want to ask people you meet the question “Who (what type of company) are you looking for?” If you have already met someone who matches the description, you can make the introduction. If not, look out for them as you continue to network. Also ask people “Is there anyone you have met here that you think I should meet?” if the answer is Yes get them to introduce you.

Category 2. Talk to three people that you may have only met once or twice. This enables you to develop the business relationship further. Arrange a 1-2-1. Call it ‘having a coffee’ if 1-2-1 sound too formal. Stay with them longer than people in category 1 because the relationship is not yet as strong and needs to be developed. Move on, but before you do, go through the part in italics of category 1 above.

Category 3. Talk to three people you have never met before. This can be a bit scary, but you are all there to network and they may be relieved to not have to approach someone they don’t know. If you really can’t do this, talk to the organiser. Make sure they know what you do and ask them to introduce you to someone with whom there might be synergy, so you can work together. Stay even longer with them than either of the people in category 1 or 2 because the business relationship is just starting. But do move on and before you do, go through the part in italics of category 1 above.

Recently I was told my 3/3/3 rule was the thing that had helped the person I was talking to the most. When I told them that this was something I had devised I received profuse thanks and another business relationship was made stronger. When typing that last sentence, I suddenly thought, “Did someone tell it me and I have forgotten?”, so I Googled it (other search engines are available) and came up with stuff about routing cables, so I’m still pretty sure it came from my brain. I am sure people will let me know if I am wrong.

So I offer you my 3/3/3 rule. Once you have met and talked to nine people you can, if you wish go, back to your office…or you could go round again.

If you want more networking tips go to: https://blog.ebn.uk.com/tips-on-networking.html

Have fun.

Would you do that if we were meeting face to face?

Warning: This may border on the edge of a rant:

I was talking to someone about a meeting they had attended, where he was the presenter. He was very unhappy because, while he was doing his presentation, some people put their contact details in the chat facility. (Yes it was Zoom and yes, other options are available.)

We talked for a while about strange behaviour we had seen in virtual meetings, e.g. people messing around with their backdrops, or taking phone calls. These were certainly unacceptable, but my friend was really annoyed with the people who had been obviously typing rather than listening to his presentation. As he said “ I would never introduce these people to my contacts because they obviously don’t understand what professional looks like”.

So, I started to think about how this behaviour differs from when we attend a face­­-to-face networking event (remember those?) People judge us by our behaviour and, for businesspeople in particular, we need to show ourselves in the best light. This ensures that people feel confident at putting their own reputation on the line by introducing us to their contacts.  Finally, I came up with a simple rule: you shouldn’t do anything at a virtual meeting that you wouldn’t do at a face to face meeting. Simple.

Or is this just me? What do you think?

Want a free gift? Go to ebn.uk.com and download 20 networking tips. You’re welcome.

Once upon a time…

In the last week I have been asked the same question three times: How do I tell people about all my different services when I first meet them? My answer was the same: don’t.

Many companies have a business category, e.g. IT support, but this is made up of lots of products and services: hardware, security, etc. Tell people all that and you will see them glaze over and stop engaging with you. Don’t forget that networking is about building relationships, not overwhelming people to the point when they switch off.

My advice? There are two parts to this.

The first part is to tell people what your business category is. (Assuming you have said your name and company name.) Then you can say “We have lots of products and services”. You can, if you want, say “For example” and list two or three of the services, followed by “Today I’m focussing on helping people who need to have their cyber security reviewed”.

The second part: tell them a story. Think half a page, not War and Peace. As humans, we understand stories. Give it a beginning, a middle and an end. For example, “Cyber security is getting to be more and more of a problem”, throw in some stats if you must, and then “Recently we helped a firm of solicitors who had lost £250,000 because someone hacked …”.  (This is not my area of expertise, so bear with me.) “We were asked to look at all of their systems and we found 5 ways of ensuring this kind of attack could not happen again, and we also put in place a system that will constantly keep the company protected.” ” So…this is the kind of help we want to give to others—do you know any solicitors who you would feel able to introduce me to?”

Then shut up and let them talk. One final thing: if you see people snuggling down for the night, you have spoken for too long. Refine the story.

If you would like some more tips on networking, go to ebn.uk.com and at the bottom right hand side you can download my top twenty tips.

Being hit with a two-by-four

As I write this it is four months since England when into lockdown. On that day two things happened to me:

  1. On paper, my business stopped. ebn is a business networking company, we meet face-to-face, over breakfast. For a few weeks before lockdown things had been decidedly different: members not sure what would happen with their business, what they needed to do, would they survive and how could they protect and support their staff. Then on 23rd there was some clarity, at least for me. On a business level I couldn’t continue my existing business model. It justwasn’t an option, that was very clear.
  2. I was told, very emphatically, that I was classed as vulnerable and must not go out of the house for any reason other than my regular fourweekly hospital appointments.

Maybe if one of these issues had happened in isolation I might have coped better, as it was I felt like the twobyfour had been applied. (Not that I know what it actually feels like to be hit with a twobyfour, but I have an active imagination!)

So, what happened? My network immediately kicked in; my fabulous team of Group Directors, all business owners themselves, took their groups online and this gave me some space to get to grips with all aspects of ‘being vulnerable’, from the psychological impact of that, to the practical.

My beloved, who is high risk, decided, to keep me as safe as he could by also not going out. We, therefore, had to work out how could we get things like food, medicines, and other frivolities.  The next-door neighbour became our short-term lifeline and then three people from my business network volunteered to shop for me. (Any of you who are thinking: what about home deliveries?” are delusional. I never managed to get the golden ticket, or as some people called it, a delivery slot.)

Since 23rd of March four things have happened:

  • ebn has grown as people came to virtual meetings as visitors, got help, advice, and support from my wonderful members. Business people have come together and supported each other. It has not just been about how they are coping but how their businesses are doing.
  • I have realised that, if nothing is normal then, for my business everything is possible. So, I am reviewing my business model. This includes how and where we open groups and when and how we develop additional products, which would be available to members and non-members
  • I have realised that ‘vulnerable’ is a label that others apply to me
  • My long-held belief has been proven; networking works.

Since networking is about building relationships, please accept my gift of Top 20 networking tips by following this link: ebn.uk.com and complete the form to download your copy.